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Babysitting Your Grandchildren Could Lower Risk for Alzheimer’s & Dementia

As a grandparent, you get all the joys and pleasures of being a parent without the pressure of having to crack the whip, call the shots and make the tough decisions on bedtimes and weekly allowance.

Let’s face it - grandparenthood is a delight and at times a thrill, but did you know it can also add years to your life and make your brain younger?

Yes, you read that correctly. For a time, it was thought that grandparents who looked after their grandchildren were at a higher risk of developing cognitive disorders, but new research has come to light that’s blown this hypothesis out of the water.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

We all know that keeping you on your toes and running after your grandchildren is a surefire way to keep you physically fit, but the brain-boosting effects of being a grandparent are mightily impressive too.

In a study from The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, researchers looked at how 186 post-menopausal women performed on a variety of memory tests. It was found that the women who spent 1 day per week babysitting their grandchildren had the highest cognitive scores.1

Dead End for Depression?

It isn’t just mental performance that skyrockets from caring for your grandkids - you also reduce your risk of depression.

Having a close relationship with your grandchildren is vital for beating the blues, a 2014 study from The Journal of the American Gerontological Society of America found.

In the study of 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren, it was found that grandparents who spent quality time with their grandchildren were at a much lower risk of depression.

We Love Them But…

As joyful and wonderful as being a grandparent can be, it’s important you don’t take on too much babysitting time.

That might sound rather blunt, but the same study from The Journal of the North American Menopause Society mentioned earlier showed that more is not always better.

While 1 day per week provided a huge boost in cognitive performance, the researchers discovered that babysitting grandchildren for 5 days per week or more was a predictor of lower working memory performance and processing speed.

This was due to the parents of the grandkids being too demanding, which dampened the happiness usually associated with caring, and made the grandparents feel over-burdened and stressed.

It’s All About Balance

There is a fine line between spending quality time with your grandchildren, improving your mental function, and feeling like you’re being taken advantage of as a free babysitter.

One important thing to remember though, is that just being around younger people does wonders for your brain age. A 2013 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that social isolation and loneliness increased all-cause mortality in elderly men and women.2 So keep that in mind the next time you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with youngsters running around your house.

Grandkids Are The Best Medicine

While they may not always be perfectly behaved, your grandkids could be just as good as any medicine for keeping your brain sharp and your body fit.

The important thing to take away from these studies is that there is nothing like spending time with your grandkids to nourish the soul, while improving your health.

So go set up some time to visit the grandkids. Not only will you lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and depression significantly, you’ll be on the fast track to a smarter, younger brain.

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References:

1. Burn, Katherine F. et al. "Role Of Grandparenting In Postmenopausal Women’S Cognitive Health". The North American Menopause Society.

2. Steptoe, A. et al. "Social Isolation, Loneliness, And All-Cause Mortality In Older Men And Women". PNAS.

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